The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is looking for win No. 3 in a row on Saturday, as they try to close out the 2019-20 campaign strong — no matter what the postseason may or may not bring. Next up, in SU’s home finale, is the struggling North Carolina Tar Heels.
Though Syracuse is in far better shape than UNC this season, the Orange are the ones trying to end a couple unfortunate streaks. On top of aiming to avoid a nine-game losing streak to the Heels, ‘Cuse is also trying to avoid an eighth straight 2-4 finish. Would be nice, no?
Before the game tips off on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET — on ESPN — we asked the TNIAAM staff to predict the outcome.
Syracuse 78, North Carolina 68
Yes, it’s finally going to happen. After five seasons of losing to the Tar Heels, SU is in its best position to beat UNC for the second time since joining the ACC. I think this game will be closer than the Tar Heels’ record would suggest because Roy Williams coaches as well as any against Syracuse’s zone. The Tar Heels are also second in the nation with 42.4 rebounds a game (an area they’ve often terrorized the Orange over the years), but it’s about what you do with those extra opportunities. UNC’s offense, ranked outside the top-100 in KenPom, shoots 41.6% from the field, 28.8% from 3, and 66.6% from the free-throw line. I think the Tar Heels hang with the Orange for 35 minutes, but the Orange pull away late.
Syracuse 79, North Carolina 78
This matchup is a coin flip. Although North Carolina is only 11-17 overall, they’ve lost seven games by four points or less. They aren’t nearly as bad as their record indicates. They also have plenty of skilled offensive big men. Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, and even Cole Anthony are going to feast on the interior and the offensive glass. Thankfully, the Orange has a solid offense of its own and the UNC defense is putrid (258th in points allowed). Syracuse pulls it out at the buzzer in a back and forth affair.
Syracuse 84, North Carolina 81
Despite Carolina’s record the combination of Garrison Brooks and Cole Anthony could be a problem for the Syracuse defense. The Orange frontcourt has to avoid foul trouble while the backcourt has to force Anthony into taking a lot of outside shots. I’m not confident in the zone stopping either player but I think Syracuse can win this game on the offensive end. Despite a number of turnovers at Pitt, Syracuse showed a bit more patience when it came to taking outside shots and if that carries over to Saturday the Orange should be effective. I think Elijah Hughes delivers a stunning Dome finale and is the difference in this one.
North Carolina 77, Syracuse 70
While it’s tempting to predict which Syracuse player hits the eventual game-winner on UNC, I do think the Heels come into the dome and get the win. Sidibe has been playing well of late but it doesn’t take much imagination to envision the Syracuse bigs getting into foul trouble against Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks. We don’t know if Buddy Boeheim will be 100%, either. Elijah Hughes will carry the load for Syracuse, but it won’t be enough to overcome Cole Anthony’s play along with the Carolina front court.
North Carolina 78, Syracuse 74
Accepting any and all derision for the above. But despite the Heels being an abominable three-point shooting team, they have at least two capable options inside (Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot) plus Cole Anthony to crash the boards and potentially get Orange bigs in foul trouble. Not knowing the status of Buddy Boeheim also sheds some doubt on Syracuse’s abilities to win this one, and UNC is talented enough to take advantage of some of their flaws.
Now it’s your turn...
Who will win the game between Syracuse and UNC?
This poll is closed
Syracuse, and that thing you’re feeling is hope
North Carolina, and you’re mad again